Alistair Dermer

Alistair Dermer


Northern Border – Working on Country Plans, foundations for communities

“Heading north again?”, a friend asks me. My answer, “yeah, it’s gonna be a cracker this one”.

There have been a few reflective moments in my career where I find myself feeling extremely privileged to be doing what I do. Then I remember it takes a couple of decades to get here, with a lot of support from family and significant personal and professional strategy.

I’m sitting in an airport again. It’s not my happy place as it brings conflict within my mind about how I go about doing what I do. Last night I hugged my three kids and wife for the last time for nine days. My dog looked at me with questioning eyes. A 4am start and many hours of travel on my mind.

I’m embarking on a three flight, boat, bus, and helicopter journey to get to the communities I will be working with – Dauan and Saibai. The reality is some things can only be done face to face.

This week I will be working with Melinda McLean from Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) and Andre Grant, Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT) to:

  • Ensure the community’s leaders and Elders are aware and supportive of the planning and operating processes related to their Ranger programs;
  • Collect and confirm the community’s vision and goals for their land sea and people;
  • Collect all remaining content to complete their Working on Country Plans, including empowering community members to prioritise the actions their Rangers will implement.

The process we are employing is a modification of the Healthy Country Planning process. There are 13 communities with Ranger programs operating throughout the Torres Strait. We have designed a process that aligns with regional strategies, local priorities, and implementable within available timeframes and budgets.

The Torres Strait communities are impacted by climate change. Many people have had to move to mainland Australia as a result of houses literally being washed away due to higher sea levels. Some, more than others, are impacted, Saibai a good example.

These will be plans, five and six, of a series of Working on Country Plans we are supporting in the region. In time it is hoped all 13 communities can benefit from similar plans that provide a foundation for the community to attract and direct resources so they can manage change over time and achieve positive results.

Saibai Island

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